Last weekend I went to Palm Springs with Caitlin for a gathering called Yes by Yes Yes, an “unconference” for tech geeks, “makers” (sorry, can’t write it without quotes), and tech-adjacent folks like me. A friend was the organizer, and when she asked if I wanted to go, I said yes (a-ha!) for a few reasons. I liked that it was a techy conference organized by women. I was feeling antsy in my professional life and it seemed like it would give me some food for thought, maybe even a career jumpstart. And going to the first year of an event like this appealed to the organizer in me, as well as the person who wants to be able to say “Oh, I was there in 2013” when something blows up. All equally honorable motivations, right?
The source of the name, by the way, is Ann Larie (my friend, one of the organizers). The founding group was discussing how SXSW had lost its early energy amid its increasing size and rapid transformation into a marketing free for all. Why not, they thought, pull together a smaller, more focused event, and have it be all the things that SXSW no longer was? No to the hype and yes to all the good things. Thus was Yes by Yes Yes born. The name seems to have become a real mantra for the group: say Yes to conversations, to ideas, to each other. A little too sincere? Also yes. But inspiring anyway.
I’m still working through what the weekend meant to me. In some ways it was fantastic. We sat by the pool, got massages, drank cocktails, and had interesting conversations in a geeky safe space. It was baking in Palm Springs that weekend – I think it hit 110 degrees – and getting to dip into the water every few minutes was heavenly. The timing wasn’t ideal, however, since I’d just come off a week on the Russian River and was feeling like I needed some time at home. I was also already sleep deprived.
That sleep deprivation didn’t get any better during YxYY; late nights were inevitable, given the party atmosphere. At the time, I felt a little lost, even though I had a few friends on hand. It’s unusual for me to be out of my social element, and while I’m an extrovert, I’m not a great small talker. I have a hard time introducing myself to strangers, even a self-selecting group like the one at YxYY. The structure of the event was to do away with as much structure as possible. Bring hundreds of like-minded folks into one glamorous place, throw a cocktail party and a prom, and see what happens.
What happened, it seemed, was more than anyone anticipated. I witnessed the expected – pool floating, flirting, imbibing of adult beverages, and sunscreen application – but also the unexpected. Friendship-bracelet making (hell yeah I did that), “miracle” berry eating, 3D printing, tshirt modification (i.e. slashing and fringing), underwater photo booths, kazoo jam sessions, late night cigar smoking, and a grownup prom featuring 80s outfits and a Chewbacca costume.
Did I have a life-altering experience that left me feeling recharged and full of creative energy? No. Did I appreciate being surrounded by people nerdier than I am (I realize that’s saying something) and interacting outside my comfort zone? Yes.
I did a debrief with Ann Larie over the weekend and went to a Yaysayers happy hour last night, so clearly I’m still chewing on the experience. Most interesting, given that the weekend was for me an excuse to be lazy by a pool, is the ongoing conversation that is happening among the Yaysayers. Folks are DRIVEN. Projects are shooting out of this group at a wild rate: brunches and cocktail hours and dinner parties in cities around the country, videos and photo collages and online magazines, plans for co-rental apartments in New York and San Francisco, and techier stuff that I don’t understand and am therefore tuning out.
Even if this winds up not being my crowd, it’s fascinating to watch a community bloom overnight into a multi-legged clamoring army of energy. I hope that it gets slightly less earnest and a little more snarky, but my comfort level isn’t the important thing here. My only contribution is likely to be a Napa/Sonoma distillery tour, less creative but no less fun. When in doubt, say yes to booze.